My name is Alec Baines and I am a Post-baccalaureate Researcher in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of South Florida. I am from the land of gator wrestling and birds so big that they could probably wrestle you, aka Florida, so it was inevitable that I would fall in love with these amazing animals.
I study the skulls and brains of archosaurs – a group of animals that includes birds and crocodilians, as well as their extinct cousins, the dinosaurs, and pterosaurs. In addition to this research, I am involved in promoting the visibility of queer and disabled scientists (like myself) and wildlife conservation education.
3 Fun Facts About What’s Going On Inside Archosaurs’ Heads
- How do we know that birds’ closest living relatives are crocodilians? Two holes in their heads! (As well as other traits that they share.) All archosaurs have a hole in front of their eye sockets called an antorbital fenestra and a hole in their lower jaw called a mandibular fenestra.
- Although soft-tissue preservation is rare, fossil brains can occur. The first dinosaur brain fossil was discovered in 2016. It likely belonged to a dinosaur closely related to Iguanodon.
- Flying archosaurs have a similar neural advantage when hunting from the sky. Many modern birds of prey and pterosaurs have an enlarged flocculus, a lobe in the brain’s cerebellum involved with gaze holding and visually tracking moving objects. This greater dedication of brain space for the flocculus allowed them to keep a clear visual focus on quick-moving prey while flying.
Connect with Alec:
- Twitter: @BainesAE (Twitter)
- Instagram @alecosaurus
Fact 1: ucmp.berkeley.edu
Fact 2: Brasier, Martin D., et al. "Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur." Geological Society, London, Special Publications 448.1 (2017): 383-398.
Fact 3: Witmer, Lawrence M., et al. "Neuroanatomy of flying reptiles and implications for flight, posture and behaviour." Nature 425.6961 (2003): 950-953.
If you’d like to have your work featured on We Rep STEM, get in touch! We can be reached via email at email@example.com.